Improvising over Autumn leaves with guide tones

Hello & welcome to todays lesson on improvisation. After I received many questions about Autumn leaves and how to start improvising over it, I decided to help you with a short introduction to guide tones. Lets start with the underlying harmony of the A-section of the tune:

Am7 / D7 / Gmaj7 / Cmaj7

F#m7b5 / B7 / Em / E m

Knowing the underlying harmony is the first and vital step to start improvising. Next, we have to identify the root, third, fifth and seventh of the chords. For those who don´t know how to do that, please find a good private teacher and talk to him about chords and notes in the chords. Feel free to mail me for private lessons.

Chord  Root Third Fifth Seventh



Gmaj7 GBDF#

Cmaj7 CEGB

F#m7b5 F#ACE


The notes of the chords (arpeggios) perfectly fit for the improvisation. Sometimes there is no time to play many notes because the chord change very fast. Or maybe you are not aware of all the notes all over the fretboard. For that reasons, guide tones are the perfect way to start. Guide tones represent the sound of the chord very well. You can say that guide tones are something like the heart of the chord, describing the harmonic structure of it. Guide tones are always the 3rd and the 7th of a chord.

For that being said, here we go with the guide tones for Autumn leaves:

Am7 C and G

D7 F# and C

Gmaj7 B and F#

Cmaj7 E and B

F#m7b5 A and E

B7 D# A

Em(7) G and D

After all that talking, lets take this notes and make it sound 🙂 Play the guide tones using half notes. Try to play them in one position without flying around the fretboard. You can download a short notation using the link below.

Notation guide tone exercise

I hope this will help you start a nice improvisation. If you like to learn more, please contact me for a lesson on jazz or guitar.


Montgomeryland Funk Solo Excerpt 1

Greetings everybody,

today I´d like to post you a short excerpt of the tune „Montgomeryland Funk“ by the amazing Wes Montgomery. The transcription starts at :17 and end at :25

This tune is a 12-Bar-Blues in the key of F major. Have a lot of fun.

Please play even eight notes and not dotted eights like many people out there name the misunderstood“swing feel“. Just play even eight notes maybe slight behind the beat. Try to avoid dotted eights.

Click on the link below to download the pdf in standard and tab notation. If you want top learn this tune or learn about improvising in jazz or blues, please send me an email for online lessons.




Weekend jazz jam

Hello everyone,

in earlier lessons we talked about the pentatonic scale and it´s notes in different keys all over the neck. Today I´d like to give you an example to use the minor 7 pentatonic scale over a dominant 7 chord.

In jazz the dominant 7 chord is an important chord when it comes to all kind of tension in the underlying harmony of a tune. The formula of a dominant 7 chord is:

1 – 3 – 5 – b7

The spice of the dominant 7 chord belongs to the third and the flat seven. The tritone adds the tension between those so called „guide tones“. The guide tones of a major scale are on the 4th and 7th degree. In case of C major it´s the F and the B natural (H auf deutsch). As you can see, the G7 (chord on the 5th degree) contains both guide tones.

There are mainly two qualities of dominant 7 chords in jazz world. Type I does not resolve. Type II does resolve. In our todays jam we talk about II.

Let´s pick a II – V – I in the key of c major.

Dm7 / G7 / Cmaj7 / Cmaj7

The dominant 7 chord G7 resolves to the tonic Cmaj7. Now, what does that mean? From the listeners point of „view“, the tension created with the G7 gets lost progressing to the I. In theory the guide tone F resolves to the E of the C maj7 and the B natural to the C. The guide tones are supposed to function in that way. As a formula, the guide tone on the 4th degree of a major scale resolves to the 3rd degree´s note, the guide tone on the 7th degree resolves to the 1st degree´s note.

In jazz, we are going to add more tension to the V chord by using notes within the key such as the 13. The other option is to add alterations, notes that are not in the key such as b13 (b6, #5), b9, #9 or the combination of those notes.

Dm7 / G13 / Cmaj7 / Cmaj7

Dm7/ G7(#9) / Cmaj7 / Cmaj7

Dm7 / G7(b9 b13) / Cmaj7 / Cmaj7

If you like to solo over type II chords, you can use a lot of scales that often depend on the alteration of the dominant 7th chord. A popular way is to play the 7th modes of the melodic minor scale over the V chord. This 7th mode is often called „altered scale“. On dominant 7 b9 b13 chords, you can use the 5th mode of harmonic minor (HM5). You can also create this tension playing minor major 7 arpeggios over the dominant chord.

What I want you to do today is not as easy as it sounds. I want you to solo over the chord progression II-V-I in the key of c major. Dm7 for one bar, G7 for one bar, c major 7 for 2 bars.

Over the dm7, play the a minor 7 pentatonic. Over the G7, play the Bb minor 7 pentatonic and over the Cmaj7, play the E minor 7 pentatonic. Use the Bb minor 7 pentatonic really careful and figure out which notes do sound good and resolve nicely to the next notes of the a minor 7 pentatonic. It needs a bit of work, but it´s a great way to add a jazzy sound to this progression without knowing all the advanced jazz scales such as harmonic and melodic minor.

Please contact me for questions by mail info@learn2rock



Pentatonic workout

Hello everyone,

I´d like to take some time to respond a question that reached me about how to practise minor 7 pentatonic scales. For the guys who don´t know what a minor 7 pentatonic is:

Let´s talk about a minor 7 pentatonic in A minor. The following numbers show the relation of the particular notes to the root A of the Aminor 7 pentatonic scale.

1 – b3 – 4 – 5 – b7

As you can see, the notes of the minor 7 pentatonic are pretty the same as the notes of the corresponding chord A minor 7 ( 1 – b3 – 5 – b7). Only the perfect fourth isn´t in the scale.

The following exercise applies an underlying harmony of minor 7 th chords that move up chromatically. To practise the notes of the scale in a workout, play the pentatonics moving up as notated in the downloadable PDF.

Download PDF

Please comment or mail for further questions or a lesson about this stuff.